Service Learning: In The End

Through this experience my perception has changed, I think the goal of most all digital tools (besides making our lives easier) is connectivity. Working with junior high students, connectivity is very important to them as they are learning how to navigate various relationships and finding their own identities. I have realized connecting with people digitally is very important to me as well. By facilitating and partaking in conversations and tools tech enables, I truly believe we are better able to reach youth. Here, reach has two meanings. For one thing, a willingness to talk about digital media use, citizenship, and safety opens the doors for deeper and guided learning for our students. Secondly, when we reach our students we are interacting with them in an engaging way that promotes learning.

Through connection, creation and collaboration the goals and values of any campus, classroom, or lesson can only be strengthened. Utilizing tech in a meaningful way only increases buy-in from students, they are interested to learn and explore. Through their own exploration, they naturally collaborate and help one another. I have seen it happen. Digital use, social media, or tech does not in itself contradict the mission of most educational spaces. Guidance, through conversation and exploration, can solidify and strengthen the goals that our classrooms and schools hope for. The tagline for the junior high I work at is “Respectful, responsible, safe and engaged”, this goes for staff and students alike and these are the expectations I would argue everyone has for one another when it comes to digital use.

Digital literacy is something that must be developed and guided in order to obtain the best results. With students, if schools and educators do not jump into the roles of guide, who will? This is a major limitation that I see when it comes to digital use. We expect, our teens especially, to use all that the internet has to offer in the safest and most appropriate manners. How can they do that if no one has shown them? How can they know the depth and breadth of knowledge, support, and possibilities that exist if no one exposes that potential in a thoughtful and meaningful way? For many students, school may be the only place where they have access to tech resources. If we aren’t capitalizing o what all those resources can do, are we preparing out students to be adequate citizens of the 21st century? Personally, I don’t think so.

In the mediated role I play within a school, I have learned first hand that students are already and eagerly exploring our digital world. When I let go of my hesitancy to talk to students about my social media or app use when they asked me, I realized what meaningful conversations can come from an adult sharing digital experiences and approaches for digital identity and professionalism. Technology has provided us and our students with access and opportunities to more things than were ever possible before. And it is through these created capabilities of connectivity that we can develop students’ interests in creating and collaborating while simultaneously contributing and enriching our values.

Service Learning: Some Advice

I have taken so much away from this class that I have only noticed ways it can improve the after school program I coordinate. For next year’s coordinator, I hope to leave some simple tools to utilize that will improve the program. I truly wish I had taken this course sooner so that I would have been able to implement the things I have taken away at the start of the school year, not 10 weeks before the year ends and standardized testing taking up 3 of those weeks.

Since the program is supported through various community partners, I can only see implementing these ideas increase communication and engagement for the students as well as for our supporters. The image below explores my thoughts and ideas.


The neon stars signify areas in which I suggest tech continue or start to be utilized.

  • Techie Tuesday: As described in my other posts, this is a quick and great weekly ritual to allow students to share what they are using in the digital realm and how it works.
  • Google Classroom: If this is possible, it would be a seamless way to push out documents, calendars, registration forms, and anything else to the entire student body or just the students who attend (but if we could get it out to everyone hopefully it would increase attendance).
  • Planning: Students should be able to plan and create the calendar for the next month’s activities on a digital calendar that parents, students and the community could see.
  • Blogging: Often students don’t have homework to work on and having students contribute to a blog would give them additional opportunities to practice their writing skills and build the Hang Time community.

This information will be getting passed along to whomever the coordinator of the site ends up being for the next academic year. I hope they are willing to take it on because I know how much the students would enjoy and how it would create a better mode of communicate than we current have.

Service Learning: Sharing What We’ve Learned

A group of us from this course had a facilitation project for another class we all were in together. Our goal was to create an activity for the class, who consisted mostly of soon-to-be and current teachers, which would leave them with tangible resources for their students and the students’ families. We decided to utilize a tool we had learned about in class: We walked our peers through creating an info graphic that had resources students may need, broke the students up into groups so that we covered multiple school districts in the greater Seattle area, then had the groups upload their info graphic into a public Google Drive folder I had created. The goal in having these in a shared location, was for the majority of our classmates who will begin teaching in the fall. Not knowing where they may end up working, the shared documents that spanned a wide scope of the area and its districts could be used in the future.

I was impressed by how into most of the groups got! With only 25 minutes to search for resources and create their infographic, the groups put some real thought into what they students and their families may need and what was within the neighborhoods of each particular school. The link to the folder can be found here.

Here are just two examples of some of the infographics created:

Woodmoor Elementary


Inquiry Project Cont.

Garageband(available on iOS Apple products) and Audacity(available for Windows and Mac) are two applications that can be used by students or by educators to record and create audio works. These typically get their claim to fame as music platforms, but they can be used in a multitude of ways within the classroom. From podcasts to poetry to recording growth, these tools can be used for/by varying skill levels, across various devices and your students are likely familiar with them! Each has their strengths and weaknesses, but these programs give users the option to record, edit and save audio files. An example of how either of these apps could be used for early elementary students is to record them reading out loud at various times throughout the year so you and each student are able to reflect on and compare their progress. Junior high and high school students can engage in creating original works, editing and collaborating on projects. Check out a few ways to use Garageband here and Audacity here.


Itunes and Soundcloud are two apps that can be used to upload and share audio files. First and foremost, these are platforms many use to listen music, create playlists, and share music with friends. User profiles can be developed and many junior high and high school student use these daily to stream music. However, they can also be used to produce and share audio files created in the tools listed above. One of my personal favorite things about soundcloud is that users can add feedback to audio recordings at any moment of the recording, this can be especially helpful in providing students with feedback or requiring them to comment on an audio file provided for a lesson. Here is a very helpful guide if you are unfamiliar with soundcloud.

Looking for additional ideas of how to use soundcloud? Click here!

Want to learn more about how to edit on Audacity? Check this out!

More Garageband resources HERE!

Overall, the above mentioned are just a few ways educators and students can interact with tech and one another to create, share and comment on audio works. The engagement and collaboration that can be enhanced through the interactions with and within the above platforms can truly enrich student and teacher learning, while catering to different learning styles, interests, and abilities.

Inquiry Project: Audio Discussion Tools

Students and educators have so much to learn from each other. Discussions, whether large group, small group, verbal or written, play a huge role in our classroom environments from elementary school through higher ed. Below are just a couple of platforms we have chosen to transform written discussions and how discussions are viewed in general. Flipgrid and Voki both have classroom style settings in which groups of students can easily be organized and communicated with. The power of audio or video responses is student engagement – through these platforms, students feel they have more of voice and are more comfortable sharing their perspectives when they are able to do so virtually.
9523208_300x300Flipgrid is a platform that personalizes discussions and gives students the opportunity to share through video recordings or text responses. Available online and through a mobile device app, Flipgrid has made sure it is accessible to as many as possible.

On the students end, this platform doesn’t require registration. As long as the students have the code to access each particular discussion prompt, they are able to utilize it without having to provide personal information. Similarly, the privacy settings can be easily customized, so educators are able to choose the right amount for his or her users. Flipgrid is appropriate for users at the age and ability to use it. It does require some typing, picture taking, and navigating to be able to contribute and view others responses. A great, short tutorial link for how to use Flipgrid can be found here.

Summary of Upsides:

  • Multiple ways to access and contribute
  • Lots of control given to the educator to personalize security and use
  • Very personal and more interactive way to host online discussions
  • Increases engagement of those who may be too shy to share their perspectives in person

A few downsides:

  • Users must choose to post video or type a text response. Not being able to do both could be a disadvantage and disengagement for ELL students
  • The only direct feedback you can give on a particular post is a “like” button

Similarly, Voki is a platform with customizable speaking avatars. Voki Classroom allows educators to create individual users within organized groups so students are able to create their own avatars and contribute to online discussions, prompted questions, or create mini productions. Voki also has TONS of classroom and educator resources on their website. They have geared their platform primarily for use in education and it shows.

Voki has many different user options and applications. To access or preview some of  the lessons, check out this and/or this. Through my investigation of ways educators are using Voki, one of my favorite projects I came across was for a history lesson. Students would choose/be assigned a historical figure, make their avatar look like him or her, and then through research, develop a narrative for that person and present it to the class through the avatars the created. What a fun way to research and present about someone’s life!

Overall, both of these platforms are great tools to incorporate into the classroom to increase engagement, voice, and digital literacy. The audio components of Flipgrid and Voki allow students to take a more active and personal role in developing their ideas and working on presentation. Although both classroom editions do charge a fee, the implications and ease that come along with them make them a great resource for students and educators.

Service Learning: Insanity has ensued.

Okay, so maybe I’m the only one going insane. The past week and half have been very taxing. With a sudden switch to block schedules to accommodate for standardized testing, the students are out of their normal routines, worn out and very needy at the end of the day.

For example, circling up and getting through announcements and introductions (a task that usually takes 8 minutes) has been taking anywhere from 15-25 minutes, because the students feel like they have so much they need to get out (verbally) after sitting through their new schedules. Collectively, they are taking around 20 additional minutes to unwind after school than usual. This is no surprise considering that nearly all of the students in attendance are seventh and eighth graders and have been testing ever other day in addition to trying to focus for two hour periods versus the usual 50 minutes. Two-thirds of the students who are in regular attendance at the after school program are classified as special education by the school and receive some level of additional support during the school day. At our after school program, depending on the day, there are 2-5 adult mentors present to engage with the 10-25 youth participants, many of whom desire one-on-one attention especially now that their schedules are so different than before. Unfortunately, I have decided to pause our Interactive Fiction Workshop until testing is complete.

Last week, I had two students do a read through for the first half of my interactive fiction example I have written. Being a couple of eighth graders who love to give me a rough time, I was surprised by how engaged they were, both in the process and in wanting to know what happened next. Since they are well aware of our project, I shared with them that I intend to finish writing it when they are writing theirs. It is important to me to engage in part of the process along side the students; this gives me the opportunity to model what I am expecting, troubleshoot along side them, and collaborate together. I am looking forward to reserving the staff room and running the remainder of the workshop in a space the students will be excited to work in. The room is set up like a conference room with many chairs around a huge table. If there is one thing I have learned about junior high students, it’s that their attitudes towards participating always increase when there is food involved! On our workshop days I will be bringing additional snacks for the students so they can much while they work collaboratively in a new, more professional feeling setting.

However, our Techie Tuesdays have continued to be a big hit among the students! I am learning so much from the students and am so impressed by how they are utilizing technology and engaging in this digital world. Stay tuned for a post highlighting all of the apps recommended by students!

Things to come:

  • Utilizing the Active Board in the staff room to facilitate various tech explorations during the remainder of testing
  • Create and use Google form to get feedback from students about the program and reccommendations for the end of the year party
  • Create a doc of recommendations of tech tools to utilize to strengthen the after school program for next school year

Reinforcing My Reality

From this weeks reading, the article (and study) that I related to most was Teens, Technology and Friendship by Amanda Lenhart. In my multifaceted position, the more I get to know, interact with, and observe students the more I learn about their digital habits and relationships. I love this about my job. This article solidified a lot of things I have noticed about students’ behaviors and conversations and wondered if such things were common among most teens. According to the data provided in the article, many are.

As a school assistant supporting 5 different teachers in 5 different classes, I work most often with the students who are struggling or behind commonly from engagement and motivation factors. While working in small groups, removed from the classroom setting, I help students to get caught up or stay on task. In a less traditional setting, the students are always interested in learning more about their peers and me and act on their curiostiy. As the students are most often boys, I honestly cannot tell you the number of times I have heard the question “Dude, what’s your gamer tag?” once a conversation has been started. This exchange follows by a conversation about when to play and who else typically partakes. I have witnessed these invitations for digital hangouts strengthen in person relationships between 7th, 8th, and 9th grade boys. I was excited by all the data in the article! Over and over again I found myself mentally responding “that’s my students!” or “yep!”

Similarly, when social media gets brought up, students rattle of their usernames for Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat like its part of the normalcy of introductions, which for them, it is. As emphasized in the article, this is a major way and place where students create and maintain friendships. On the topic of social media, students are always interested to learn how many followers one another (or I) have. I am always making it a point to ask the students why that is a question worth asking, and if the number of followers someone has is a sign of significance or worth. This often leads to conversations about privacy, after I have shared with the students that I have fewer than 300 followers on Instagram because I typically only let people I know follow me because of the professional identity I am working to create and maintain. As most all of our readings for this week have pointed to, the students get it. Yes, teens need more guidance and open conversations about digital privacy and citizenship, but they know so much more and are collectively so much more aware and responsible than society gives them credit for.

I look forward to engaging with the students in these conversations with the new back ground of data provided by Lenhart and the “9 Key P’s” provided by Vicki Davis.

The grey area of teaching about digital privacy, identity and citizenship:

My experience working with students has been one much different than a traditional teacher role. Coordinating an after school drop-in program and recently starting as a school assistant/gen. ed. Para, I have largely served as a mediator and mentor between junior high students and their experiences, academic and social. One thing that I became more aware of as started working in classrooms was how little talk there is about technology use. Besides instructions consisting of grab a Chromebook and do this, there is no acknowledgement of how students are becoming and participating as digital citizens, besides “put your phone away or I’m going to take it”. This is something that is troublesome to me and was reinforced through this weeks reading; collectively, we are not teaching and guiding our students to be responsible and engaged digital citizens.

Just yesterday, when talking to students after school, I asked how many of them have parents who somehow monitor what and how they are using their devices. All but one of them with personal devices raised their hand. On the multiple occasions when I have used the term “digital citizenship” I get puzzled looks and use it as an opportunity to explain and promote discussions on what digital citizenry entails. More often than not, students are excited and engaged when a tech conversation gets brought up – their openness to share what types of devices and apps they use, how they use them, and negative digital experiences they have had are not things that even need to be prompted for. Students are eager to share because these are current and authentic aspects of their life, just as they are in our lives.

There are few adults within our school communities who delve deep into these topics with students, and librarians are some of the best resources for students when it comes to tech education. I have been so fortunate to not only be supported by the school librarian, but also to partner with the teen director for a few of the King County libraries. Their work in bring activities to the students like Minecraft Maniacs workshops or creating a space for the students to hang after school surrounded by tech resources has shifted their role as librarians to ‘techarians’ or ‘digitarians’ (yes, I just made those up). On our junior high campus, the library is the only section of the school that has an Instagram page. And King County Library system has a Blog directed towards teens (along with multiple academic support and event options). Such a novel concept, right?!….engaging with our students through social media about education and their community.

The overarching fear that surrounds conversations is the biggest obstacle adults must overcome to facilitate these types of conversations and space for students. We cannot expect, welcome, and utilize machines within our classrooms while simultaneous tiptoeing around how students are actively using them on their own time. Technology is a tool for engagement, both in practice and in conversation. Devices and how we use them should be critically examined, and it should be a goal of educators to facilitate these conversations to promote digital citizenship and guide students understanding of privacy and identity.

Inquiry project: Learning about audio in the classroom

As I have began searching for popular audio tools being used in classrooms I am realizing just how much is out there! From reading education review blogs, watching YouTube tutorials and browsing the web; I am learning about new audio platforms and also learning about new ways to use ones I already have been using.

Voki is the platform I was most excited about as I began investigating. Voki is an online platform where users are able to create avatars and upload, record to use a text-to-speech feature to communicate. This type of online forum allows students some creative freedom when creating their avatars and a space for students to engage in discussions. In Voki Classroom (a service you can pay for), teachers are able to add users with assigned usernames and passwords, and organize users into classes. This allows students to operate under one overhead account and address various prompts a teacher or classmate post.

photoSoundCloud is one platform I frequently use to listen to music and had never thought about the audio applications it could have in an educational setting. Due to its popularity, Sound cloud is device friendly, easily accessible through the web or downloaded as an app for Apple or Android products. SoundCloud also allows for HUGE uploads…5 GB or just over 6 hours (according to its website) and allows the person uploading an audio file the option of letting that file be downloadable by others or not. I’m not sure how copy right law works when reading from a textbook, but I could see how audio recordings of vocabulary dense textbooks in social studies or science could be very useful for audio learners and for ELL students.

One commonality I am seeing between the various platforms I have read and viewed is that the audio file can be shared and embedded elsewhere. Similarly, nearly every platform I have looked at thus far (10 at least) have multiple ways to upload or create audio. This makes it easier for educators to share things directly to their classroom websites or blogs, and provides ease of navigation for student and parent users. Although I have found numerous resources on how to use particular platforms, I am interested in finding how educators are using audio to enrich their classrooms and student engagement and am looking forward to learning more!

A few of the informative cites I viewed are: